Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd was hit with the franchise tag last year, but was never able to come close to agreeing to a long-term deal with his team. He ended up playing well in 11 games in 2013, and he'd be one of the top free agents if he were to hit the open market.
So far this offseason, both sides have negotiated a long-term deal, which still could be struck before Monday's deadline to use the franchise tag. However, WGR 550 Buffalo is now reporting the Bills are unlikely to re-sign or use the franchise tag on Byrd now:
According to a source, the Bills and Jairus Byrd may be parting ways soon. Byrd is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the team has until Monday at 4 pm to place the franchise tag on their star safety. I'm told that it's unlikely they'll use the tag and that it's unlikely they'll reach an agreement before that time.
The two sides have had productive discussions, and while things could change, it seems at this point that the two sides will split.
Tagging Byrd for the second consecutive season would cost the Bills around $8 million in 2014. The Cleveland Browns have been rumored to be seriously interested in reuniting Byrd with his former defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine. The Browns may choose to let safety T.J. Ward walk in free agency and sign Byrd, who can help teach Pettine's system to the rest of the Browns players.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Byrd had four interceptions and one forced fumble in just 11 games.He graded out as the No. 8 overall safety by Pro Football Focus this past season and is expected to be seeking a contract that pays him around $8 million annually. Pairing him with the likes of Joe Haden would make them quite a ball-hawking defense.